What A Pav!
Source: The Wall Street Journal
You know you are eating a wonderful wada pav when after eating one, you instinctively say, “Oo, ajun ek dya!” This superhit movie called Vada Pav stars two legends in the lead role; the potato and the besan. These two have been a part of many other superhits like the Bread Pakoda and the Batata Bhaji. While the potato is a part of many other scrumptious delicacies like Aloo Chat, Aloo Tikki, Aloo Gobi, Masala Dosa, it is most known for the exquisite desi superhit called Aloo Paratha and the international superhit French Fries. The Besan on the other hand is part of the majority snack items like the Jhunka Bhakar, Pitla, Gol Bhaji, Palak Bhaji, Besan Laddu amongst others.
Though the potato and the besan are the leads, the supporting start cast can definitely not be ignored. The lip-smacking taste that lightens up every taste bud in your mouth, comes from the amalgamation of the variety of Indian spices and the chutney that is served along with the vada pav. Worth a mention is the Ginger-Garlic paste. This star duo gives the potato stuffing, a wonderful twist - a twist that acts as a major differentiator between a good vada pav and a deliciously good vada pav. Not only the vada pav but this duo is the secret ingredient behind many other blockbuster delicacies.
While serving, the pav is rubbed with some chutney and finely chopped onion; the hot vada which is just out of the kadhai is then placed on this well dressed pav. When this heavenly setting goes into your mouth, you cut in through the soft pav into the crisp layer of besan and then you march into the king’s space with the steamy hot potato stuffing and you think you are done – No!, you are not. This was just the bite. When you chew this golden morsel, the chutney, onion, potato stuffing, besan mix together and spread into the entire mouth, pampering the taste buds like never before. "But wait. Oh, Narcissus! You are still not done." Just when all the heroes are melting in your mouth, you chew in a little piece of chilli and surrender to the divine intervention.
The chilli in the climax scene is not raw or cooked but just dipped in hot oil and taken out. Some salt is sprinkled over these hot chillis and they are ready, The chutney with which the vada is served is different across the vada pav stalls. The most common chutney is the lasoon chutney which is made up of groundnuts, garlic and other spices. Some vendors apply a coating of the coconut-coriander chutney before applying the lasoon chutney. The most brilliant chutney that I ever got to have with the vada is the besan chutney which makes Thane's Gajanan Vada Pav famous. Founded in 1978, Divakar Shetty - the founder's son says that nobody can replicate the chutney that they make. They serve their vada pavs on a leaf with the besan chutney and the mirchi thecha.
First made almost five decades ago by a man named Ashok Vaidya, the vada pav has come a long way from being just a sidewalk delicacy to a inseparable part of the Marathi culinary speciality. What an invention! What a Pav!